'I'm Not Guilty; He's Just a Good Friend'
Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin
Schabir Shaik pleaded not guilty to all charges against him this morning.
In a plea explanation, he told the court that the payments the State alleges to be part of a general corrupt relationship between him and Deputy President Jacob Zuma were, in fact, the sign of a close friendship.
"I am accused Number One in this matter and I also represent the corporate accused. I plead not guilty," he told Judge Hilary Squires.
Shaik admitted that he had made a great number of payments to Zuma or on behalf of Zuma.
Some of the recipients of these payments were the late Mrs Kate Zuma, Standard Bank (where Zuma had a cheque and home loan account), a number of attorneys, Zuma's former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Bankfin which handled Zuma's vehicle financing.
A number of payments, Shaik said, had also been made to Zuma's children and to their schools.
He also admitted to paying money on Zuma's behalf for the repair of motor vehicles and his travel agent for air fares.
He said he had paid Zuma's debt to the ANC (party subscriptions), but said this had been paid back to him.
Shaik said, too, that R2 million paid to the Zuma RDP Trust had come directly from former president Nelson Mandela.
He further admitted to buying clothes worth R7 500 for Zuma at Casanova (a Durban clothing store).
"My association with Zuma began in the 1980s during the struggle against apartheid.
"I went to London where I met Zuma and Aziz Pahad.
"Zuma recruited me for the ANC and sent me for training … I was often in charge of carrying information from my brother, Mo, to Zuma," said Shaik.
"Zuma was one of the first ANC exiles to return to South Africa. He suggested to (ANC treasurer) Thomas Nkobi that I be his assistant.
"Nkobi helped ANC members who returned to SA with funds."
Schaik said the bond between him and was close and had endured.
Shaik explained that he had set up his extensive business empire from 1995 onwards.
"Between 1996 and 1997, Zuma had dire financial problems and he wanted to leave politics.
"I tried to help him in an effort to keep him in politics.
Shaik explained that among other things he had restructured Zuma's debt and put his children on a bursary scheme.
"Zuma said he would repay me.
"I reluctantly agreed on condition that no interest be charged because of my religious beliefs," he said.
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin and the Cape Argus.